Structural alterations at the neuromuscular junctions of matrix metalloproteinase 3 null mutant mice

M. Vansaun, A. A. Herrera, M. J. Werle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Matrix metalloproteinases are important regulators of extracellular matrix molecules and cell-cell signaling. Antibodies to matrix metalloproteinase 3 (MMP3) recognize molecules at the frog neuromuscular junction, and MMP3 can remove agrin from synaptic basal lamina (VanSaun & Werle, 2000). To gain insight into the possible roles of MMP3 at the neuromuscular junction, detailed observations were made on the structure and function of the neuromuscular junctions in MMP3 null mutant mice. Striking differences were found in the appearance of the postsynaptic apparatus of MMP3 null mutant mice. Endplates had an increased volume of AChR stained regions within the endplate structure, leaving only small regions devoid of AChRs. Individual postsynaptic gutters were wider, containing prominent lines that represent the AChRs concentrated at the tops of the junctional folds. Electron microscopy revealed a dramatic increase in the number and size of the junctional folds, in addition to ectopically located junctional folds. Electrophysiological recordings revealed no change in quantal content or MEPP frequency, but there was an increase in MEPP rise time in a subset of endplates. No differences were observed in the rate or extent of developmental synapse elimination. In vitro cleavage experiments revealed that MMP3 directly cleaves agrin. Increased agrin immunofluorescence was observed at the neuromuscular junctions of MMP3 null mutant mice. These results provide strong evidence that MMP3 is involved in the control of synaptic structure at the neuromuscular junction and they support the hypothesis that MMP3 is involved in the regulation of agrin at the neuromuscular junction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1129-1142
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Neurocytology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Nov 2003
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Histology
  • Cell Biology


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